Maryland bill aims to transition state away from coal

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland would phase out the state's six remaining coal-fired plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under legislation that has bipartisan support, but opponents who work at the plants cited the loss of hundreds of jobs and urged lawmakers to study the idea further before taking action.

Del. Kumar Barve, a Montgomery County Democrat, and Sen. Chris West, a Baltimore County Republican, are lead sponsors on the legislation, which would set aside funds to help workers and communities that are affected by the plant closings.

Maryland's six coal-fired plants only operated for a total of 17 days last year, West said at a news conference before a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee.

“It’s not sustainable," West said. "These plants are going to close, whether they close tomorrow or three years from now, they are going to close, and this bill provides lots of benefits for the displaced workers. We need to enact this bill so that when they close, the workers are provided for.”

Barve, who chairs the House Environment and Transportation Committee, said the transition period would be open to negotiation.

“We want to do something that’s not too far in the future but also doesn’t provide marked disruptions,” Barve said.

But officials and employees from the plants said the measure would cost hundreds of jobs, and they disputed the assertion that the funding in the measure would be adequate to help affected workers or communities.

Debra Raggio, a senior vice president with Talen Energy, said the few days that the plants are called on to produce energy are important to meet demands. She said the Herbert Wagner and Brandon Shores power plants in Anne Arundel County have yet been called on to produce energy for a single day this year, but it's important that they are available in case they are needed.

“That's right, so we all emitted more carbon driving to this hearing then those plants emitted this year and we expect in our projection probably 14 days of running, but those 14 days are important days,” Raggio said.